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The New Social Worker is the quarterly magazine for social work students and recent graduates, focusing on social work careers for those new to the profession. This blog is a companion to the free online magazine at http://www.socialworker.com.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Laugh to Keep from Crying

CHILD WELFARE IS NO LAUGHING MATTER. Anyone who has worked in the field knows how heartbreaking every new case can be. We listen on the other end of the phone line as someone describes the abuse they suspect or have witnessed. We picture the infant, or two-, three- or six-year-old boy or girl in our mind and we can't help but be outraged or saddened by the stories we are being told.

It's my short term goal to work in this area of social work, and I know I'm going to have to find ways to deflect the sadness--or I won't last a month, much less the years I hope to be there. I am looking, each day, for a way to find some joy, or humor, or hope, or, at the very least, something delicious to taste, smell, or listen to on my head phones.

Yesterday I held a baby who was not yet a month old. I observed her tiny features--she had the most beautiful face I've seen in a while. Nestled in a warm, waffled, winter blanket, she had no idea what was happening in her innocent young life. I held her for the better part of an hour and she never awakened from her slumber, though her dark eyelashes flickered now and then and I got to see her deep chocolate brown eyes a few times. I wanted nothing more in those moments but to protect her and whisper sweet words to her like: "You are okay," and, "Everything is going to be alright," and "I know, little girl."

Today, I laughed deep belly laughs with my supervisor who is naturally funny just by the virtue of her off-the-hip honesty. Throughout the day I recalled her sense of humor and allowed myself to relive the happy feelings I experienced when we were laughing together.

Child welfare will never be easy. It will yank at my heartstrings as long as I stay in this field. And, I really like it. I want to do it. This internship has been the test for me. Though I have the Title IV-E grant, and I've promised to work for Department of Human Services, I still have the option of paying them back in real money rather than time.

Because I've made a decision to work with abused and neglected children and their families, I have to find ways to take good care of myself, too. I'm giving myself permission to laugh to keep from crying, to hold babies whenever I can, and to take long, hot baths on a regular basis.

~Ms. T. J.


  1. Oh so true! Being able to balance the laughter and tears is crucial to lasting in Child Welfare.

  2. Spoken like an experienced worker...that's you, huh?
    ~Ms. T. J.

  3. Hugs from loved ones work well and wild, laugh until you cry parties with your co-workers also work well. Take a field trip with several of your favourite gangs of social workers to the next NASW regional conference (do they have them?) and party on!